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It’s the end of your ride, time to hop off and head back to the barn…

But what if it’s not quite that simple? The skill of dismounting is one that is often overlooked in teaching.

It happens at the end of the ride, when practice time is essentially over. Plus it seems so simple, and it is simple, as long as it’s done correctly.

However, a poor dismount is both dangerous for the rider and uncomfortable for the horse.

I have witnessed a surprising amount of accidents happen in the dismounting process, even when the horse was standing completely still.

In today’s video, I will show you two ways to dismount safely, and demonstrate two of the most common mistakes – one that I’ve seen result in several falls.

Hit play below to watch the video and then join the discussion below!

 

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71 Responses

  1. Hi Callie,
    Good video.
    I teach my students just a little differently when leaving the left foot in the stirrup. I have them lean on the right hip facing forward (looking at the horse’s ears), slip out the left foot and hop down next to the horse still facing forward. This enables the student to see where the ground is.
    Kathy

  2. The only thing more painful than the broken wrist and cracked rib I suffered during my dismount fall was having to admit the horse was standing perfectly still when it happened! I was SO excited to have cleared my first (baby) jumps that I dismounted with too much zeal and SPLAT!
    The most basic tip of all: keep your head!

  3. Great video. I developed a way to dismount which some of my friends are using,due to our age and various physical limitations (in our seventies and eighties, but still riding) the jump to the ground is quite painful so I flip the offside stirrup over the seat of the saddle as I dismount and use it to lower myself gently to the ground. I’ve never had the saddle slip doing this and our horses seem quite ok with it. Granted, it is not ideal, but at least we can keep on riding!
    Cheers from BC ,Canada
    Susan

    1. Susan, that is a great modification – I really appreciate you sharing this tip with our community 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. Unfortunately due to previous injuries it’s hard for me to hop down from my tall horse. I have taught him to go to mounting block for me to dismount. At that I remove my feet from stirrups and place my left foot on block and bring right leg over. He helps stabilize me to re-adjust my body to stand upright. He is an awesome boy!

  5. Great advice to not slide down along the saddle, but push off a bit from it as you dismount (w/out stirrups). Something I need to be more aware of. Thanks!

  6. The thing I’ve found most helpful in dismounting safely (and maybe even more in mounting safely!) is teaching my horse to stand still.
    It never ceases to amaze me, the number of riders who will spend hours schooling their horse for dressage, jumping, western competitions or whatever, yet who seeming grudge spending ten minutes training a horse to stand still – very often, that’s all it takes.
    How many of us have seen a rider (or lots of riders), hopping round in circles with one foot in the stirrup and one foot bouncing across the yard, as the horse they haven’t bothered to train wanders round in circles?
    If you lose balance and go over backwards (especially if half-way up), you could hit the ground hard enough, head first, to give yourself concussion, do permanent brain damage, or break your neck. Even a top quality crash hat will only protect your skull; it will NOT save your brain from slamming against the inside of your skull as your head comes to an abrupt halt – and it’s that which causes brain damage.
    If you spook the horse as you go over, by shouting or screaming, he could take off with you having one foot trapped in the stirrup. Unless the stirrup breaks, you are unlikely to survive.
    Yet I’ve seen books which go into horse training in great detail, which never even mention teaching the horse to stand still.

    1. Yes very, very true! Standing for mounting and dismounting to something that Callie is always working on with horses that come in for training!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  7. I have trouble dismounting. Swinging my leg over is no problem,
    but I have difficulty landing on my feet. Sliding down the saddle has helped with this, but you advise against that in the video. Any advice for finding my feet when I land?

    1. Debbie, you can make it a little easier by stepping down onto a mounting block – a shorter distance to drop from!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  8. Hi Callie:
    Great video, I have been using second method shown though my trainers prefer first. I find it difficult getting my right leg over – working on this, as well as confidence to jump down.
    I also like the comment that Kathy made, and will look at this too – my fear is jumping down, its a confidence thing for me. Kathys idea may help too.
    cheers.

  9. Hey Calli! Interesting topic that we were just having a debate over. Any thoughts on dismounting onto the mounting block? I don’t do this personally as I feel it can be unsafe and know 2 people injured while doing this. But in reality is it any less safe?

  10. Great video, Callie! I’m just getting back in the saddle after 2 hip replacement surgeries. I’m in my 60’s. Dismounting is extremely difficult for me (although it’s been a year since my last surgery). I have to have someone help me get my right leg over the saddle and I use a mounting block. Do you think a step ladder would be helpful? I really do enjoy riding and don’t want to give it up. Thank you! Debbie

    1. Debbie, does the mounting block work? Is the step ladder taller than the block and that is why you are thinking of trying it? I would just be careful that the step ladder is sturdy in your footing!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Thank you, Julia. My trainer and I have tried the mounting block but it’s very unsteady. That’s why I want to use a step ladder. Could you give me a step-by-step process of how we older gals with creaky bones dismount? Should I keep my left foot in the stirrup? I’m going riding tomorrow afternoon and can’t wait to try again! Last time, my right boot got caught on the cantle and I panicked. Thank God the horse was super calm. I almost fainted. When I was sitting down afterwards, the horse came up and nudged my face to make sure I was all right! I LOVE that horse! 🙂

        1. No, you definitely don’t want to keep the right foot in the stirrup because you could get caught and if the horse walks away it can be dangerous! I would dismount just as Callie has shown but onto a mounting block.

          -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  11. The caveat for aging riders is: Be sure to release your hands before your feet hit the ground. After 47 years of successful dismounts using your methods, one little tug on my 54-year-old shoulder upon landing tore the rotator cuff. Even if you’re still in shape, those tissues are getting thinner as you age. It didn’t stop my riding, but saddling with one arm for eight months was a bit challenging!

  12. Callie, could you demonstrate dismounting in the way you were saying where you’re not landing the full distance onto the ground?

  13. Of late I have found it easier to dismount on to a mounting block (solid wood, unmoving) I’m in my sixties. Also after an older friend was suddenly unable to swing her right leg over the back of her saddle after our ride I’ve been getting off my (patient) mare on her right side every once in a while. Thx for your videos, they’re great.

  14. Hey Callie,

    I was taught once by an older Swiss rider that to help you swing your leg over to lean well forward along the horse’s neck. Basically, with your feet out of the stirrups and in all one continuous movement, place your left hand on their shoulder, lean foward, place your right hand/arm along side their neck while simultaneously swinging that right leg back and over. Go with the momentum created and press with your left hand and hold on with your right arm around the neck to stabilize and you should land beside the horse, facing forward, and still holding onto the horse for support. Since your left hand doesn’t really move, hold your reins in that hand.

    It worked very well for me considering I’m just over 5′ and his horse was a huge draft cross that was close to 17hh. 🙂

    1. THIS! Plus turning your head a little to the right. Also, it helps to take a handful of main in your left hand, with reasonably short reins (not too loopy), for both mounting and dismounting. Keeps you from pulling on your horse inadvertently, as well as helping to stabilize you a bit more.

  15. Hi Callie,
    A great topic as I was just thinking about this as this past week I had some difficulty full swinging my right leg back- it got stuck on the cantle. After the watching the video I realized, like all things, that I need to do a bit more preparation and thinking or mindfulness before dismounting. I know in the past when I do a bit more planning, it is more successful. This is a great topic and a skill worth improving upon as like you said, many injuries occur on the dismount.
    Thanks again for another great video!
    Nancy B

  16. Hi Callie. Thank you for sharing this video. A week ago I had slid off the horse and fell to the ground. I am ok. I have been riding (mainly race horses) for over 20 years. I have stopped riding due to life and a car accident back in 2011. Now, I am 56 and starting to ride again. I use to leap off horses all the time from the track, but now I feel like I am starting over, plus I am a lot heavier…lol Been going to the gym and trying to get my Rider Fitness back.
    Thanks again Carrie for the videos!!!!

  17. Callie you are an Angel! Thank you so much for your lessons and video. I remember things 10 times better when I see it, and the explanations make me understand things better. Thank you!

  18. I was taught the first method as a child and greatly prefer it to the second, but I work in a barn where most other instructors teach the second method. To me, the second method only makes sense if there is some physical reason why you cannot do the first; in that case, I prefer to have someone heading the horse as they dismount, especially with beginners. We teach the exact same rein management/hand placement and prep that you describe. It drives me nuts when riders “cling” to their horse in method 2–and yes, I have seen the saddle slide a bit in the case of an adult-sized rider who insists on clinging and doing the whole procedure in slow motion. Great points about not clinging. I will share with my devoted “clingers” in the hopes it will convince them. With both the methods you demonstrate, I have seen it help if the rider on final step thinks of pointing toes to the ground a bit in the final phase of the dismount–if the rider does “slide” a bit unintentionally, this thought keeps their toes from following the round curve of horse’s belly and landing with feet a bit under horse (UGH, a good way to land on your posterior!). Do you also teach emergency dismounts? Forgive me if you already have a video on that!

  19. Hey Callie,
    Thank-you so much for doing this video. I do find dismounting difficult, maybe in an english saddle it’s a bit easier to swing that right leg back and over. I ride in a western saddle, and find that I get stuck when I don’t feel like I can swing that right leg back and over. Any tips?

    I have no problem jumping down once that leg is up and over, it’s the placement of my body and hands that gets me all caught up.

    I did like the advice of keeping your body over the centre of the horse when leaving your left leg in the stirrup. I will be doing a lot of practicing.

    Thanks Callie!

    1. Kristy, once you have both feet out the stirrup I would make sure your body is forward enough that it is easier to swing the leg around but please be careful about getting stuck on the horn.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. I’m definitely going to try and teach my pony to stand next to the mounting block for dismounting. I can manage with first method now, but I’m not getting any younger!

  21. What tips do you have for jumping down from a 17.3HH horse? I tend to slide down so my distance to the ground is less. I broke my ankle dismounting last year, so I’m wary of a jump from that high (plus I’m 46 years old and 5’6” tall)

  22. Thanks for this video. I recently started riding lessons again at age 64 after a 44-year hiatus, and my teachers teach the first method, which they also point out is the best way to do an emergency dismount (which hopefully I’ll never have need for!) I can actually dismount that way with no problem, but my ultimate goal is Western pleasure/trail riding, and I was wondering how to get out of a Western saddle, knowing I’d have trouble clearing the cantle. I knew it was dangerous to keep that left food in the stirrup. Pointing out how keeping your weight over the saddle before taking your left foot out answered my concerns! Thanks as always for your great tips.

    1. The important thing to watch out for with a Western saddle is not letting your shirt get tangled in horn. Do you think it will be difficult from a flexibility standpoint?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. Hi Callie,
    I follow that method too but I think it’s worth mentioning for the benefit of an older rider, how important it is to bend/soften your knees as you land as this helps lessen the impact on the rider’s body.It’s really easy to forget to do it and then land with a real ‘oomph’ which jars your whole body.

    1. Yes Kate, thinking soft knees definitely helps with dismounting. Thanks for bringing up this important point!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  24. I enjoyed this video and find it helpful. I would also love to see a video of mounting. As we get older, less lumber etc… for whatever reason, it would be great to see some videos on exercises and ways to mount easier. And items out there to help. I also have a small trypod that I use to mount sometimes that helps me get those extra few inches needed to re mount again.

  25. How about thinking about flexing at the knees upon contact with the ground? I have always thought of the legs as shock absorbers and been prepared to flex whenever jumping off anything, including a horse! I can’t imagine a stiff-legged dismount!

    1. YES–I always try to do this myself, as well as reminding my students…we often have smaller riders on tall (golden) school horses, so this is key! You can see Callie doing just that upon landing in the video. She is also turning slightly to face the way the horse faces–also a great way to stay balanced!

    2. Dick, yes this absolutely helps! If you have ever dismounted on a hard surface with stiffened knees you know the pain of not thinking soft knees!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    3. I should clarify I am no young athlete – I am 72, but in reasonably good shape with years of leg workouts at the gym (now I work out keeping horses! – pulling muck buckets across pastures, etc.). I have also been adding chondroitin sulfate to my morning coffee for years to help strengthen and preserve knee joint tissue. Technique is extremely important but can’t solve all problems alone. General physical conditioning give us the platform on which to execute technique. — or so goes my philosophy.

  26. Watching the video just makes me wish I were young and strong with no knee issues! I’m afraid if I try to hop down from my 16.2 hand horse I would be in extreme pain. I do slide down my saddle to get closer to the ground before I have to make contact with it and even then I usually have to stand there a moment as there is always some pain. However, I don’t slide down in slow motion and I never wear anything that will get caught on the saddle. I also don’t end up with my feet under the horse. My trainer feels it is more dangerous to dismount onto a mounting block. I feel a bit at a loss. I’d love to see a video of the method you talked about for those who can’t “hop” down. Aging and sore, aching joints aren’t for the faint of heart! But I don’t want to give up my riding!

    1. Hi Cheryl, I agree that it can be dangerous to dismount onto a regular mounting block. However, a good sturdy one with a couple of steps up to a solid platform work well. I use one like this to get on. I am 66 years old, have bad knees and once a week ride a friends horse who is 17 hands high. Without the sturdy mounting block I would be sliding down the saddle.

  27. I’m returning to riding at the age of 62 after a 45 year gap. I’m not as flexible as I used to be! Twisted my ankle on dismount after my first lesson and found I was feeling anxious during subsequent lessons just thinking about getting off safely. Today I tried the second method, keeping left leg in stirrup whilst swinging right leg over. Worked a treat – I now feel I don’t have to be anxious about dismounting.
    These videos are really helping me to enjoy riding again, thanks so much.

  28. Hi callie. Love thr video but i am not so agile as you and hate to have any witnesses to my awkward dismounts. I can’t come done hard on my arthritic right angle from my western daddle so i suspend myself with left foot in the stirrop with all my weights then slowly lower myself down till the right foot touches the ground. Sometimes the left foot stays caught in the stirrup and i hop around yill i can get it loose. This cound end badly if i didn’ Have zn understanding horse. Any elegant qnd safe way for a 70 some year old to ease off a tall horse?

    1. Sarah, I would not recommend leaving a foot in the stirrup especially on a tall horse – can be very dangerous! Can you dismount onto a mounting block to help you?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. Great topic. I’ve seen the deasteroud accidents you spoke of as well. Another senecio that came to my mind was an accident of a 10 year old at our local fairgrounds. The young girl was riding bareback after existing her horse away from the arena. She swung her right leg forward and up over the horses neck to leap to the ground. ( we’ve all seen this on TV) But her spur caught the right tein as she crossed the right foot over the horses neck. As she came to the ground, she was virtually upside down. The pull of the right rein caused the horse to step to the left, placing the hoof on top of the girl’s skull.
    Yes, miracles do happen, and the young girl recovered and is riding again.
    My plea is for parents, trainers, and handlers to educate and pay attention to children away from the ring.

    1. What a terrifying situation, I really hope she was at least wearing a helmet! Glad she is okay but what a hard lesson to learn.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  30. Like Cheryl, I am guilty of sliding; my ‘hopping” days have long since passed. A video of adaptive techniques would be great. In my case it’s legs that turn to jelly after an extreme workout or even, as I discovered rather to my surprise, after a 3 hour trail ride all at a walk. Maybe some two- point or rising at the walk would have helped. What ideas do you have for your older riders?

    1. Sue, sliding can be really dangerous for you if your clothing were to get caught and it is really, really hard on the horse’s back! I would recommend dismounting onto a raised surface (like a mounting block) so you don’t have as far to drop down but you aren’t sliding!

      Hope this helps,

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  31. What a great video! Dismounting is one of those things I’ve simply never been taught. It seems most folks just assume anyone should be able to figure out how to get down.

    I find it rewarding to learn the technique I’ve landed on is pretty decent.

    I ride western, and I do something pretty close to the Method 2 shown in the video. The only difference is rather than holding onto the saddle while deliberately removing the left foot from the stirrup, then hopping down…instead, I use the saddle to keep my balance and keep my center of gravity over the center of the horse as I swing my right leg over, then slip my toe out of the left stirrup as I drop down. It’s not a slide as I do keep space between me and the saddle and am not hanging my weight from the saddle as I descend. However, it’s not really a hop either. It’s just a drop as I slip my left toe from the stirrup.

    I developed this thru trial and error…after a couple of times hanging my clothing on the saddle horn…and after learning to pay attention to centering my weight as I mount.

    Thanks for the validation!

  32. One thought about dismounting on a mounting block for older or less abled riders. This can be a rather small, and sometimes unsteady “target” (depending on placement). For regular riders with their own facilities (or training facilities taking the initiative), it might be better to build, or have built, a mounting/dismounting platform for a steadier and larger surface. A step or two to access the platform and you are “staged” for riding!

    1. We have one of these platforms with steps and it’s great. I totally agree about the small unstable target of a regular mounting block. If your horse moves or even shifts his weight you can miss the block. If someone moved it out of their way it may not be on solid ground. I’ve seen this.
      Also, if people dismount onto a block they tend to leave one foot in the stirrup and use it as a step placing their full weight in it. If the horse spooks or just simply decides to move you can now be in big trouble. And this disaster happened to my girlfriend.
      We now teach people who use the mounting platform to still take both feet out of the stirrups and put both feet on the platform at the same time.

  33. Great video! Like some of the other commenters I was never taught how to dismount. With knee and back issues I tend to either slide or use a mounting block. I agree with some of the comments that a mounting block may not be safe if it is small, not level, or someone moved it. I find I forget to bend/soften my knees and coming off a 16.1 hands high horse can be extremely jarring. As an aging short (5′) rider getting down is sometimes a challenge. I will try the second method and hopefully remember to bend on landing. Thanks for the video!!

  34. Great tips and video as always Callie! One other thing that I do (now) before I dismount is to survey the ground around me before making a move. A couple of months ago I wasn’t aware there was quite a big rock on the ground in the exact place my left foot landed and I ended up very badly brusing the arch of my foot as all my weight came down onto that spot on top of the rock! I couldn’t believe how painful that was…so now I always “look before I lead”.

  35. I just read this after dismounting this morning after many months away from riding: my legs and knees are so weak and at 62 they may not improve despite all my pilates strength training. So thanks so much Callie, awesome tips! ps regards from western australia!

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